Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm hungry.

Speaking of a slice of something delicious, here's my favorite cheesecake recipe.  I've been tweaking this recipe here and there for a while, and now it's pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.  And it's really easy!  This is just a base recipe, a blank canvas to which you can add anything your heart desires.  Seriously, the possibilities are endless.  My favorite addition is 3 8-oz cans of drained, crushed pineapple.  Yum.

3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of sugar

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Combine cracker crumbs, butter and 1/4 of sugar in the bottom of a springform pan, and stir thoroughly with a fork until the crumbs look moist, buttery and delicious.  Press the crumb mixture evenly around the bottom of the pan, slide into the oven, and bake for 7-10 minutes or until mixture has browned just slightly.  Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat your cream cheese until it looks...well, creamy.  If you need to, you can microwave it for a few seconds at a time to make it easier to beat.  Once your cheese is sufficiently creamed, mix in the vanilla and sugar.  Then add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  (NOTE:  If you beat the filling too much, it will bake up all fluffy and whipped-tasting.  I tend to like really dense cheesecakes, so I only mix it until you can't see egg-parts anymore.  If you like fluffy cheesecake, feel free to beat that sucker like there's no tomorrow.)
Add any desired yummies (fruit, nuts, chocolate, cookies, extracts, etc...) to your batter, and then pour carefully onto your cooled crust.  This batter is thick, so it's best to tap it on the counter a few times to level out the top and get rid of any air bubbles hiding in the creamy goodness.

Now, it's ready for baking.  First, slide the cheesecake into your 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes only.  Then (this part is really important), turn your oven temperature down to 200 degrees and bake for another 65 minutes or so, or until the center of the cheesecake is almost set.  Reducing the temperature prevents the cheesecake from cracking on the top, a problem I ran into a lot before discovering this trick.  Another crack-prevention strategy is to leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door open for a few minutes before taking it out (oven should be off at this point).  This will help the cheesecake cool down enough so that it won't go into "shock" from the temperature change.
ANOTHER NOTE:  This cheesecake doesn't brown much at all, so don't panic if it looks like a vampire.

After the cheesecake is cooled, refrigerate it overnight.  I know, you want to eat it NOW (believe me, I KNOW), but trust me, it's better this way.  Done?  Good.  Now you can carefully run a knife around the edge of the springform pan, and then separate it from the cheesecake.  Garnish with whatever you like (might I suggest a dollop of lemon curd?), cut yourself a decadent slice, and enjoy.

See you guys later. :)

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